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tred and detestation of them), that causeth any to embrace their ways of devotion.
But to return. The things pleaded for may be reduced unto the ensuing heads.
1. No persons, no churches, are obliged by virtue of any divine constitution, precept, or approved example, to confine themselves in their public or private worship, unto set or humanly devised forms of prayer. If any such constitution, precept, or example can be produced, which hitherto hath not been done, it ought to be complied withal. And whilst others are left unto their liberty in their use, this is sufficient to enervate all pleas for their imposition.
2. There is a promise in the Scripture, there are many promises, made and belonging unto the church unto the end of the world, of the communication of the Holy Spirit unto it, as unto peculiar aids and assistances in prayer. To deny this, is to overthrow the foundation of the holiness and comfort of all believers, and to bring present ruin to the souls of men in distress.
3. It is the duty of believers to look after, to pray for, those promised aids and assistances in prayer. Without this, all those promises are despised, and looked on as a flourish of words, without truth, power, or efficacy in them. But,
4. This they are commanded to do, and have blessed experience of success therein. The former is plain in the Scripture, and the latter must be left unto their own testimony living and dying.
5. Beyond the divine institution of all the, ordinances of worship in the church, with the determination of the matter and form which are essential unto them, contained in the Scripture, and a due attendance unto natural light in outward circumstances, there is nothing needful unto the due and orderly celebration of all
public worship in its assembly. If any such thing be pretended, it is what Christ never appointed, nor the apostles ever practised, nor the first churches after them, nor hath it any promise of acceptance.
6. For the preservation of the unity of faith, and the communion of churches among themselves therein, they may express an agreement, as in doctrine, by a joint confession of faith, so in a declaration of the material and substantial parts of worship, with the order and method thereof; on which foundation they may in all things communicate with each other as churches, and in the practice of their members.
7. Whereas the differences about prayer, under consideration, concern Christian practice in the vitals of religion, great respect is to be had unto the experience of them that do believe; where it is not obstructed and clouded by prejudices, sloth, or adverse principles and opinions. Therefore, the substance of the greatest part of the ensuing discourse consists principally in the declaration of those concernments of prayer which relate unto practice and experience. And hence it follows,
8. That the best expedient to compose these differences amongst us, is for every one to stir up the gift and grace of God that is in him, and all of us to give up ourselves unto that diligence, frequency, fervency, and perseverance in prayer
which God requireth of us, especially in such a season as that wherein we live. A time wherein they, whoever they be, who trouble others, may, for aught they know, be near unto trouble themselves. This will be the most effectual means to lead us all into the acknowledgment of the truth, and without which an agreement in notions is of little use
But, I confess, hopes are weak concerning the due application of this remedy unto any of our evils or distempers. The opinions of those who deny all internal,
real, efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, and deride all their effects, have so far diffused and riveted themselves into the minds of many, that little is to be expected from a retreat unto those aids and reliefs. This evil in the profession of religion, was reserved for these latter ages. For although the work and grace of the Holy Spirit in divine worship was much neglected and lost in the world, yet no instances can be given in ages past, of such contempt cast upon all his internal grace and operations, as now abounds in the world. If the Pelagians who were most guilty, did fall into any such excesses, they have escaped the records and monuments that remain of their deportment. Bold efforts they are of atheistical inclinations, in men openly avowing their own ignorance and utter want of all experience in things spiritual and heavenly. Neither doth the person of Christ or his office, meet with better entertainment amongst many, and by some have been treated with scurrility and blasphemy. In the mean time the contests about communion with churches are great and fierce. But where these things are received and approved, those who live not on a traditionary faith, will not forsake Christ and the gospel, or renounce faith and experience, for the communion of any church in the world.
But all flesh, almost, hath corrupted its ways. The power of religion, and the experience of it in the souls of men, being generally lost, the profession of it is of no great use, nor will long abide. Yea, multitudes all the world over, seem to be weary of the religion which themselves profess, so far as it is pleaded to be of divine revelation, be it true or false, unless it be where they have great secular advantages by their profession of it. There is no greater pretence of a flourishing state in religion, than that of some churches of the Roman communion, especially one at this day. But if the
account which is given us from among themselves concerning it be true, it is not much to be gloried in. For set aside the multitude of atheists, antiscripturists, and avowed disbelievers of the supernatural mysteries of the gospel, and the herd that remains influenced into a hatred and persecution of the truth by a combination of men upholding themselves and their way by extravagant secular interests and advantages, is not very highly considerable. Yea, their present height seems to be on a precipice. What inroads in other places, bold opinions concerning the authority of Scripture and the demonstration of it, the person and office of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all his operations, with the advancement of a pretence of morality in opposition to evangelical grace in its nature and efficacy, are made every day, is known unto all who consider these things. And although the effects of this poison discover themselves daily, in the decays of piety, the increase of immoralities of all sorts, and the abounding of flagitious sins, exposing nations unto the high displeasure of God; yet the security of most in this state of things, proclaims itself in various fruits of it, and can never be sufficiently deplored.
Whereas, therefore, one means of the preservation of the church, and its deliverance out of these evils, is a due attendance unto the discharge of this duty of prayer, the declaration of its nature, with a vindication of the springs and causes from whence it derives its efficacy, which are attempted in the ensuing Discourse, may, I hope, through the blessing of God, be of some use unto such whose minds are sincere in their inquiries after ruth.
WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
P R A Y E R,
THE SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATIONS; AND THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS THÉREIN; WITH A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND USE
OF MENTAL PRAYER, AND FORMS.
The use of prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit therein. T
works of the Spirit of God towards believers, are either general, and not confined with a respect unto any one duty more than another; or particular, with respect unto some especial duty. Of the first sort are, regeneration and sanctification, which being common unto them all, are the general principles of all actings of grace or particular duties, in them. But there are, moreover, sundry especial works or operations of this Holy Spirit in and towards the disciples of Christ; which, although they may be reduced unto the general head of sanctification, yet they fall under an especial consideration proper unto themselves; of this sort is the aid or assistance which he gives unto us, in our prayers and supplications.
I suppose it will be granted, that prayer in the whole compass and extent of it, as comprising meditation, supplication, praise, and thanksgiving, is one of the most signal duties of religion. The light of nature in its most pregnant notions, with its practical language in the consciences of mankind, concur in their suffrage with the Scripture in this matter. For they both of them jointly witness that it is not only an important duty in religion, but also that without it, there neither is nor can be the exercise of any religion in the world. Never any persons lived in the acknowledgment